Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • A Mention in Dispatches

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    Cory Ring sent me this yesterday.  Apparently some folks are using my Santa Anna Rules for the American Civil War.  Santa Anna Rules was written for the Mexican American War.  It’s always neat to hear about folks having fun with rules I wrote.  Too often the only feedback an author gets are the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewers on places like TMP, blogs, and glossy gaming magazines.  At the end of the day, the reward for developing rules is not cash (there’s little of that), but knowing that folks are having fun with rules I wrote.

    G.A.M.E.R. Science Fiction

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    The initial setup.

    The initial setup.

    Several of the HAWKs assembled this Saturday to paint figures for our Armies for Kids project.  After about three hours of painting, we set up an impromptu science fiction game using G.A.M.E.R.  I am still wrapping up development of G.A.M.E.R. for WWII, so it wasn’t quite ready for a science fiction game.  Chris had recently finished his Bones science fiction figures, and we wanted to get them and my science fiction figures on the table.

    Chris' forces in their initial deployment area.

    Chris' forces in their initial deployment area.

    The biggest things that I need to address for science fiction are how to account for body armor and stats for science fiction weapons.

    Eric's purple squad advances.

    Eric's purple squad advances.

    My platoon leader and "machine-gun" team

    My platoon leader and "machine-gun" team

    Eric hammers one of my teams with HE fire from his tank.

    Eric hammers one of my teams with HE fire from his tank.

    Ouch!

    Ouch!

    My Colonial Marines advance toward a rocky outcropping to seek cover.

    My Colonial Marines advance toward a rocky outcropping to seek cover.

    My Colonial Marines take up a good firing position.

    My Colonial Marines take up a good firing position.

    My anti-tank rifleman took out Eric's tank after several unsuccessful shot.

    Chris consults a subject matter expert for tactical advice.

    Chris consults a subject matter expert for tactical advice.

    The game was a near-run affair.  At first it looked bad for our side when Eric took out half my infantry in the first turn.  Then it looked better for us when I took out Eric’s tank and Dave started to engage Chris’ infantry who had entered the compound we were trying to capture.  It looked even better for us as Dave and I chopped up Eric’s infantry.  Chris sent one of his corporals to try hand-to-hand combat against one of Dave’s infantryman, but the corporal lost the melee and fell into a file of poisonous ooze.  But then Duncan arrived with some additional infantry.  Chris and Eric cut up one of Dave’s teams.  Then Chris moved around Dave’s flank.  I was in a strong defensive position, doing damage to Eric and Duncan, but I was not going to be able advance into the compound, so we called the game a victory for Chris, Eric, and Duncan — the “bad guys.”

    Recent Terrain Efforts

    Posted By on May 3, 2015

    With limited painting time last week, I didn’t get to paint any figures, but I did work on a few bits of terrain.  Greg pointed me at Underground Lasers (https://undergroundlasers.com/index.php?id_category=13&controller=category), which makes MDF terrain accessories.  For my ongoing effort to construct a shopping mall for a zombie game, I decided to purchase the Food Court set and the Arcade set.

    Tables from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Tables from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Air Conditioner or some other piece of machinery from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    Air Conditioner or some other piece of machinery from the Underground Lasers Foodcourt set

    The sets came with no instructions, but it was very easy to figure out how to assemble the pieces.

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    Pool tables from the Underground Lasers Arcade set

    I think it would have been nice if one of the pool tables in the Arcade set was an air hockey table instead, but these are fun pieces.  I decided to leave most of the table bare wood and just paint the felt.  I think they came out fine.

    Playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    I have posted previously some pictures of the Ertl farmhouses that I assembled and painted to add to the town of Granville or other games.  Those farmhouse kits came with swing sets, a mailbox, and a mail box.  I ran across them in a bag the other day and decided to paint them up to add to Granville’s school yard.

    More playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    More playground equipment from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Sand boxes and school / dinner bell from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Sand boxes and school / dinner bell from the Ertl Farmhouse set

    Mailboxes from Ertl Farmhouse set

    Mailboxes from Ertl Farmhouse set

    Guns! Guns! Guns!

    Posted By on April 29, 2015

    While I paint 28mm figures for gaming, my dad has always been more interested in 54mm (and larger) figures as display pieces.  He sent me these two pictures of recently complete projects.

    I think the metal track for the fortress gun came out particularly well.

    Ral Partha Chaos Wars Kickstarter

    Posted By on April 29, 2015

    Iron Wind Metals has announced a Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1050509756/ral-parthas-chaos-wars?ref=discovery) to re-release the classic Ral Partha fantasy figures form the 1970′s and 1980′s.  While these figures do not have quite the sculpting of modern figures, I really like them.  They are much better proportioned than many more recent figures, and they don’t have those crazily oversized weapons like Games Workshop figures.  (It seemed for a while that later Ral Partha sculpts in the 1990′s tried to match the GW style instead of retaining their own, classic style.  How many of use formed our impression of what a goblin, else, or dwarf looked like from these Ral Partha figures?)  The Kickstarter has already achieved its goals, so this project is going to happen, and Iron Wind is a going concern, so I see little risk.  And unlike the Bones figures, most of these are suitable both or dungeon crawls and unit-based battles; the Bones figures are suitable as heroes and for dungeon crawls but not for battles.

    I still have some of these old Ral Partha figures painted and ready to game in a box with all my other minis.  I used to think I had a lot of fantasy figures.  A couple of years ago during a move, I opened up my box of fantasy figures and realized how few I have.  There were my three or four packs of Ral Partha dwarfs, some of the goblins pictured above, and a few others.  I used to run our miniatures games on two card tables covered by a wool Army blanket.  If I run a minis game today, it usually involves at least six players on a 6×10 table.  But those early games, when we and the hobby were new, were great fun.

    So why haven’t I jumped in yet?

    For me fantasy miniatures gaming has always been a side effort.  I played fantasy games when I was in high school and college, because they were a natural extension of fantasy role playing games like Original D&D and Tunnels and Trolls.  I even wrote a set of fantasy rules many moons ago.

    I can’t figure out if I want these figures from a sense of an old man’s nostalgia for bygone days of innocence before the hobby grew up and became overrun with sock puppets and incessant complainers and haters.  Or will I really paint all of them up and participate in — or run — big fantasy battles?  Also, the price is kind of high for a Kickstarter campaign.  Three dollars a piece for these Ral Partha re-casts seems high to me.  Since the project has received all its required funding, I may just wait until they are available on the market and pick them up a unit at a time to see if I will actually paint and use them.

    In any event, I applaud Iron Wind Metals for initiating this project and making these figures available again.  This is a nice development for the hobby.

    Weekend Updates

    Posted By on April 26, 2015

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

     40mm American Civil War:

    As part of the Armies for Kids project for Historicon (see previous posts and posts on Chris Palmer’s blog), many painted Confederates were donated along with many unpainted Union figures.  The HAWKs had one recent painting day to get the figures painted up.  A second one is scheduled for next weekend.  In the meantime, I got 11 Zouave figures from Dave and painted them this weekend.

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

     

    40mm ACW Figures

    40mm ACW Figures

    World War II Figures:

    Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team in Action

    Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team in Action

    Berlin or Bust has the only 28mm machine-gun team I have found that has both a walking and set-up configuration.  A set up machine-gun team is common, but the walking team is pretty rare.

    Walking Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team

    Walking Berlin or Bust Medium Machine-gun Team

    I wanted the walking team for the upcoming convention game featuring the G.A.M.E.R.™ rules based on the recent Last Battle book.

    Space Marine:

    Games Workshop Dark Angel to Stand in Front of my Hobby Store for the Zombie Shopping Mall Game

    Games Workshop Dark Angel to Stand in Front of my Hobby Store for the Zombie Shopping Mall Game

    Greg game me this Space Marine figure to paint up.  It will be set in front of the wargaming store that I built for our upcoming zombie game set in a shopping mall.

    Robin Hood:

    Robin Hood (?) Figure

    Robin Hood (?) Figure

    This figure has been sitting on my painting desk for quite some time.  I don’t know where it came from.  It looks sort of like Robin Hood, so that’s how I painted him.

    Dungeonmorph Dice

    Posted By on April 23, 2015

    I received these dice in the mail from Inkwell Ideas (http://inkwellideas.com) yesterday.  They look like they will be a nice way to generate one-off adventures off the cuff for fantasy role playing games.  I can even imagine using them for historical adventures or pulp games.

    There are three sets of five dice — or 15 dice.  That makes 6^15 combinations or 470,184,984,576 if you use all 15 at the same time.  All of the sides are geomorphic, which means no matter what you roll they will fit together.

    This company has some other interesting products.  It is worth a look at their Web page.  I will likely order a few more things from their site.

    First Store for Zombie Shopping Mall Game

    Posted By on April 19, 2015

    The front of the hobby store.

    The front of the hobby store.

    A a semi-club project, several of us are making stores to build a shopping mall as a setting for zombie, post apocalypse, and modern games.  This weekend, I finally finished the first of two that I am building — a hobby store.

    The stores are made from uniformly-sized boxes for scrapbooking paper.  I have decorated mine with a tile floor, a textured wall, a back room, and shelves full of games.  The store even has games on shelves.  If you look closely, you may recognize one or two.

    I made a gaming table with 2mm WWII tanks and infantry.  The gamers are from Victory Force.

    The store room is a bit empty right now. You know the line you get at stores, "Everything we have is on the racks."

    The store room is a bit empty right now. You know the line you get at stores, "Everything we have is on the racks."

    My second store is going to be a wine shop, but I’ll probably spell it “Whine Shoppe.”  I am hoping this inspires the others to get going on their stores.

    Songs of Blades and Heroes

    Posted By on April 19, 2015

    A view of the scenario start

    A view of the scenario start

    On the spur of the moment (almost), Rob, Chris, Greg, and I got together for an impromptu four-player game of Songs and Blades and Heroes.  This was only my third game using these rules.  The activation mechanism is interesting.  As a four player game among buddies, where we can fill in the time between activations with kibitzing, the rules worked fine, but it seems that the rules work best with just two players.

    Greg's zombies advancing

    Greg's zombies advancing

    Chris and I were the good guys.  Greg and Rob played the bad guys.  Both sets of bad buys included a mix of skeletons, zombies, and a handful of special figures.  Greg had some kind of specter who looked like the Grim Reaper.  Rob had a sort of specter thingy that had a “terror” special ability.

    Chris and I gang up on Rob

    Chris and I gang up on Rob

    We didn’t take time to talk about our game plan, but it turned out that Chris and I both moved toward Rob’s force.  Since Greg’s forces were slow-moving, poor quality troops, he advanced slowly and didn’t get into the thick of the action until Chris and I had hammered Rob’s guys pretty hard.

    My human kills a skeleton

    My human kills a skeleton

    Rob's spectre engages Chris and my forces, forcing many to flee in fear

    Rob's spectre engages Chris and my forces, forcing many to flee in fear

    When Rob hit 50%, his remaining forces had to make a morale check.  He did reasonably well, but a bunch of his folks ran off the table.  Then his specter got into the action, forcing a bunch of Chris’ guys and my guys to run away.  I think one of Chris’ guys ran off the table.

    Humans and dwarfs engaged with zombies

    Humans and dwarfs engaged with zombies

    This is where the final, big action took place.  The zombies moved slowly and didn’t activate too quickly, but they fought pretty well.  I lost a couple of guys in the final battle, but then Greg went over the 50% threshold and most of his remaining zombies ran off the table.  At that point we called the game.

    Combat in Songs of Blades and Heroes is conducted with an opposed die roll.  It’s pretty straight forward, except since I have only played a couple of times, sometimes it’s hard to remember what is a plus to the attacker and what is a minus to the defender.  Otherwise, there is nothing too novel about combat.  Where Songs is innovative is in the activation scheme.  The active player can choose to try for one, two, or three actions per figure.  He chooses a figure to activate and decides whether to roll one, two, or three dice, trying to tie or beat his quality number.  So why not always try for three activations?  If you ever fail two activations, your activation ends, and initiative passes to the enemy.  So, while three dice might get you more actions, it also increases your chance of the initiative shifting.  So why not always just roll one die?  That’s safe, but often you want to try to move and conduct combat (two actions), or conduct an aimed bow shot (two actions, where shooting without taking careful aim is just one action), etc.

    As mentioned earlier, I think it is a fun system for a two player game with just a handful of figures on each side.  I only had seven figures, for instance.  Games with just a few figures on each side seem to be in vogue these days.

    We had a good time.  This made my 25th game of the year, so I am well on my way to my 50-game goal.

    Brigade Models 10mm Science Fiction Buildings

    Posted By on April 8, 2015

    Brigade Models 10mm Science Fiction buildings

    Brigade Models 10mm Science Fiction buildings

    As we are beginning to think about Look, Sarge, No Charts near future and science fiction rules, we are already beginning to put together units and terrain in advance of development.  These buildings were recently released by Brigade Models.  My daughter painted them for me.

    I didn’t want them to be in a single gray or brown.  I wanted them to look as if people lived in them and painted them according to their own sense of style.  These sure don’t look dull!

    As I am assembling part of my force, I got my hands on a large collection of Epic Warhammer 40k figures.  Then I picked up a bunch of turrets form Iron Wind Metals at a convention.  Combined together, they don’t immediately jump out at you as GW figures.

    A close-up of my 10mm modified GW vehicles

    A close-up of my 10mm modified GW vehicles